Strong feelings do not necessarily make a strong character. The strength of a man is to be measured by the power of the feelings he subdues not by the power of those which subdue him.
— William Carleton
Getting a grip on one’s unconscious mind is the next step after one has got a grip on one’s body. In the Magical Alphabet, F stands for Feelings because these are the products of the sub-conscious mind. In other words, while conscious thoughts are taken into consciousness, the sphere of the Ego, feelings are harder to articulate and often move and affect us without ever being translated into logical utterances.
C.G. Jung contrasted Thinking and Feeling as two functions of the psyche. Thinking deals with logical cogitation and utterances, with raciocination, as Sherlock Holmes liked to put it. When we are thinking, we are being rational (or trying to be). When we are feeling, while it is still a function of the psyche, what is actually going on is pre-verbal. Feeling is the perception of relationships on what we commonly call an “emotional” level. When you feel anger, stress, love, hate, anxiety, or joy, you likely have a physical sensation in your chest. For this reason, the faculty of feeling has been traditionally associated with the heart.
What we call the realm of the heart has to do with love, most fundamentally, but at an infantile level (that which forms the basis of our psyche), love involves both joy and fear. Fear of loss, joy in having the beloved. Children, during the time when their Ego is forming, transfer the joy and fear of having their mother’s breast and milk to other things. A toddler’s distraught reaction to the loss of a beloved toy seems ridiculous to an adult, but that is because the feeling of loss is more personal, primal and connected to the child’s feeling of vulnerability. An adult who loses her favorite fountain pen might go into a rage or a funk just as well, because these same primal emotions are aroused.
Emotions are fundamentally a form of energy in the body. In a material body they are often accompanied by chemical changes, spikes in hormone levels and other physiological changes. However, when emotions get to the mind, or psyche, they are feelings. They have emerged in the matter of the brain as patterns of recognition and relationship. For example, possession and identification are organizing ideas around which feelings form. Likewise rejection is a structure of feeling created by experience and energized by emotions. Sexual arousal is an emotion, while love is a structure of feeling connected to the basic idea of relatedness and possession, and to a degree the idea of being possessed by a beloved. The emotions are adult, as are the physiology, but the feelings may be quite infantile and primal — based on the person’s early experiences of union with the body of another (most often the mother). A baby’s sense of its own dependence often emerges powerfully as a structure of feelings, when a person “falls in love.”
Having feelings is a faculty of higher animals. We can observe reactions in other primates, dolphins, elephants, and other large-brained brethren that go beyond reflexive emotional responses to danger or attack. Affection between parent and young is one sort of feeling that we can relate to. But, speculation on what other animals feel is beyond the concern or power of most of us. What is needed is for the mage to understand his or her own feelings and emotional triggers. One way to do this is to bring feelings out of the unconscious and articulated them consciously. This may be done in language, or it may be done through a non-verbal creative medium such as drawing, painting, pottery, sculpture, and so forth.
The reason to get a grip on one’s unconscious psyche is not to throw away emotions and feelings. Quite the opposite. A mage like Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, the Vulcan who believed feelings inferior to pure logic, would not get very far as a mage. If a spell can be thought of as a rocket, logic is the structure of the missile itself, but feeling is its propellant. If own never had feelings, one would never feel the need to cast spells in the first place.
REasoning and logic will come next in the grand scheme of things as the third of the liberal arts in the Trivium. However, as a practical matter, one cannot extricate logic and feelings. They are intertwined within the psyche and so constitute Ego and Anima, in C.G. Jung’s model. Ego is supposed to operate on observation and reasoning, but in fact it very often operates on impulse — that is on the basis of unconscious or semi-conscious feelings. Thoughts and rationalizations of them, may in fact arise in the conscious mind directly from emotions. Anger, for example, stimulated by a sudden pain, may cause one to curse an inanimate object, or even kick it, just to get revenge. The Ego, at that moment, thinks that it is logical to personify an object that in fact has no volition at all.
Similarly, deep-seated feelings can prompt highly irrational thoughts. A person suffering from pain and resentment because he was weaned too early as a baby (at least to his own idea of “too early”) can evolve all sorts of thoughts of inferiority, rejection, and loss that seem simply to be true. The Ego takes such thoughts based on unconscious feelings as if they were factual observations and proceeds to rationalize them.
Such logic is not what one wants. Ideally, one wishes one’s rational mind to base its logic upon true assumptions and true, objective observations. Yet, the fact remains, objectivity is an ideal state of mind that is ultimately very difficult to achieve. Pure objectivity is impossible to the human mind, unless the entire contents of one’s unconscious psyche can be integrated into a whole with its conscious aspects. Jung called this process individuation. It must be a dance of the mind and feelings to judge one’ own thoughts as critically and objectively as one tries to judge the utterances of others. We all seek logic — that is what we call “making sense of the world.” Today, we know that this goal requires us not only to question our feelings and prejudices, but even our five senses. What seems to be is not always true.
The most common error of logic is to base one’s reasoning upon false premises. Of course, one does not know they are false until one runs up against evidence that contradicts the conclusions drawn from those premises. Modern science tries to begin reasoning from premises, which have been demonstrated to be true from prior observation and testing. It is a grand idea; unfortunately, few realize that the method itself contains assumptions that are unproven. Succinctly, observation based only on the five physical senses of the body can never admit anything that is not material. This means that things — such as the psyche — which are not material at all become warped as they are hammered into a materialist jigsaw puzzle. Twentieth-century Western psychology took a major turn when it accepted the unwarranted premise that the mind must be thought of only in terms of brain chemistry and behavior resulting from it. While this model of mind has brought us much good knowledge about the effects of brain chemistry on the psyche, it does so while implicitly bracketing the fundamental existence of the mind as a non-material entity.
Understanding this about Western psychology is important to a budding mage because a great deal of what with think and do is predicated upon assumptions that are handed to us by our elders, some so firmly believed that even to contradict them can ruin one’s career. Belief is the driving factor that prompts our thoughts. Beliefs are both feelings and thoughts. When we believe something to be true without the proofs of experimental method, we may arrive at all sorts of conclusions that cannot be accepted as true, strictly speaking. The case of religion is one of the biggest bugbears in this class; the scientific materialism of the West emerged largely as a reaction against the false reasoning of Christianity.
By “false reasoning” I do not mean to say that the religion and its beliefs are demonstrably false. Nor do I mean to imply that there is only one kind of truth. What I mean is that those beliefs taken for granted and based upon only the Christian Bible for evidence cannot claim the kind of truth found by reasoning from observation. That is, the reports of events in the Bible are unlikely to be unbiased or complete. In the case of claimed miracles, for example, science can offer no way to justify such beliefs as true.
Yet, for centuries people in the Christian West and its cultural diaspora have accepted the Bible as factual. This is because they accepted the premise that the Bible was written by God and therefore a priori, true. Long trains of logic and reasoning may spin out from that single premise based upon a collection of texts which are simply accepted without question to be literally and completely true in every detail.
Even when the field of Biblical criticism developed during the 19th century, the grounds of belief shifted only slightly. The believer, the Christian theologian and Biblical scholar, stated that the Bible was inspired by God but written by men. This meant that the exact details of fact reported could be analyzed, sifted, and questioned; but only to a point. The fundamental belief that the Jewish “Old Testament” accurately reported the history of the Hebrews was not seriously challenged. In fact a whole new industry of looking for archaeological evidence to support the reports in the Bible grew up.
While such reasoning and evidence-seeking is valid to a point, it ultimately violates a fundamental rule of the scientific method. That is, that the reasoner should not go out and cherry-pick facts or evidence in order to support a thesis. The testing of hypothesis is a rigorous attempt to disprove them. Only if a hypothesis cannot be disproven can we know (with a fair degree of certainty) that it is true. And even then, time will tell. Someone might come up with a set of data that does not fit a well-established theory, as we have seen in the development of quantum physics and relativity out of established Newtonian “laws.”
This impinges on magery very directly because the magical arts are driven not by proofs but by beliefs. There is no need to prove a magical hypothesis unless doing so strengthens one’s belief in its truth. The magical effect come about because the mage fully believes in the model of the cosmos in which he mentally works. That is why magic usually employs the imagery of whatever religion the mage accepts. Working within a cultural matrix of belief makes magic easier. In the kind of societies we have in much of the West, where many religious cosmologies exist side-by-side, we lack the power provided by a culture in which everyone believes essentially the same model.
To magery, one religion is as good as the next, unless it gets in the way of one’s intentions. Religious officialdom is thus inimical to magery and that is why so many magical folk of the past have run afoul of the law and the religious enforcers. Magery is fundamentally practical. It is a method for representing one’s intention and projecting it onto a formative plane of existence. If you do not believe in a formative plane, then you will be hard-pressed to do any magical work. But nearlly everyone does. Even the scientific atheist believes there is some layer of the mind in which positive affirmations will cause manifestations in the material world. You do not have to believe in gods or saint or angels and demons to believe in a formative world. However, Christianity and the other Abrahamic religion have tended to see this other world as populated and governed by such spiritual entities.
That is why magery has the reputation of requiring one to invoke demons. Within the medieval Christian worldview (and to a degree within medieval Judaism and Islam) magic, as defined in those cultures, depends on consorting with spirits. They might be Jinn, they might be angels, they might be demons. In the pagan pre-Christian cultures of the West, the intelligences contacted might be “the Fair Folk” or the “Hidden People,” euphemisms for entities that have a form of being similar to our own, but who also exert power over reality.
Mages today disagree on the matter of worldviews. Does one need a religious cosmology at all? Will the cosmology of science serve just as well, now that so many people believe in it? The answer will depend upon whether you grew up with a religious cosmology and whether it fits your needs. Many raised in the various denominations of the Christian religion have found it does not meet their needs because it excludes women from spiritual life. In seeking a Divine Feminine or Goddess, many today have turned to pre-Christian ideas. But personification of cosmic powers is more necessary to religious feeling than to magery.
The reason for this is that a large part of Western magic is based upon Greek philosophy and where the Greek or Roman gods are used, they are referred to as planets. As science has made planets less mysterious, the use of the planets and the god-names they bear has become abstracted from its original religious context. Is it necessary to believe in Mercury or Jupiter as persons, as god-entities who might appear in a human form? Or is it only necessary to belief in the complex of ideas that we call “Mercury” or “Jupiter”?
These are some of the fundamental questions that every mage must answer to his or her own satisfaction. Being part of a community of believers, whether these are Gnostics, Theosophists, or Hermeticists, helps to build up the strength of belief, and with belief in a spiritual model of the cosmos, one structures one’s logic to create effects that are commonly called “magical.” Ultimately this structure of beliefs makes up magical theory. But in order to construct and use a spiritual logic, one has first to grapple with the structure of one’s own psyche.
We begin with an awareness that we have both a feeling and a thinking faculty, a conscious part of our mind and an unconscious part that need to be integrated. If you do not deal with your own “inner demons” and fears first, you will likely drive yourself round the bend when you try to practice magery. This is why magical orders and mystery schools have always insisted on the long testing of an initiate and a long process of self-actualization before passing on to the practice of the art.
Thinking and Feeling should be born in mind as we progress next through the Trivium, the first three of the liberal arts. That is, Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. These are verbal arts and arts of the mind.
Next time: Grammarye.
Propriety of deportment is the valuable result of a knowledge of one’s self and of respect for the rights of others; it is a feeling of the sacrifices which are imposed on self-esteem by our social relations; it is, in short, a sacred requirement of harmony and affection.
Mme. Celnart, The Gentleman and Ladies Book of Politeness and
Propriety of Deportment, Dedicated to the Youth of Both Sexes (1833)
This is the second in my series of articles on where to start with the magical arts. First, let me reiterate that magery is both an art and a science, or it might be even better to say, a collection of arts and sciences. Arts are ways of creating something new. Sciences, by contrast, are bodies of knowledge and theory. Art and science are not opposites, nor are they in conflict. The academic turf battles in our culture (here in the USA ) have pitted art and music departments against science and mathematics departments in the perennial fight for money. In the magical arts, there is no such distinction, and it may be so because there are no Academies of Magery with budgets and departmental turf battles. As various wizards and witches of today have started schools (e.g., Witchschool.com and Greyschool.org), it will be interesting to see if such divisions arise. I hope not, for magery is the most holistic art and science imaginable.
Indeed, it was in the late 20th century along with the holistic health movement and the shift in consciousness attendant on that holistic view of nature and human beings that the magical arts have blossomed. Long before Harry Potter popularized wizardry, a culture of wizards had grown up in the USA and the UK (and elsewhere too), consisting of many practitioners, many schools of thought, and many writers. My own publisher, Llewellyn Worldwide Publications, was one of the leaders in the publication of books on astrology, tarot, and the various magical traditions that emerged increasingly into the open air of a culture of liberality. Which is not to say that wizards and witches are not still persecuted by some people. The word “witch” which modern Wiccans have sought to reclaim in a positive sense, has historically been ambiguous. To call the local midwife-herbalist a “cunning woman” was polite. To call her a “witch” was to mark her with a suspicion of wrongdoing. And that fear runs very deep in the collective unconscious. We instinctively fear anyone who might do evil by invisible means. It was that fear, rather than theological objections, that made witches ambigious figures in the polytheistic cultures pre-dating Christianity. Among Romans and Greeks and Egyptians, and indeed all the peoples of the ancient world, the arts of magery were simply accepted as a part of reality. It was not seen as something strange and “occult” nearly as much as Christian cultures have characterized it.
“Occult” from the Latin “occultare” simply meant “covered” or “hidden” for the Romans. In the Latin-speaking world of the Roman Empire before Christianity was adopted as its official religion, the word “occultare” was probably as benign as when we say that some branch of science is “obscure.” It was only under the influence of Christian spiritual leaders that “occult” took on the scary overtones it has born over the last few centuries. As our modern era progressed, Western intellectual culture moved from accepting magic as science to completely separating the one from the other. The result is that by the 21st century, most people in the West consider magery the stuff of fairy tales and children’s literature. Indeed, the creation of “children’s literature” as a separate genre of fiction, was in part responsible for the complete rejection of magery from the world Western adults consider “real” (at least officially).
The boon hidden in this cultural “progress” towards material rationalism was that it remove the power of religious authorities to prosecute and suppress those who openly engaged in, or wrote about, magery. Instead of criminal charges, someone practicing magery today is likely to be seen as mentally unstable or deluded, and referred to counseling. In the Eastern hemisphere — in Asia that is, the matter of magery played out quite differently because yoga and qigong, and other Taoist arts, became part of the religious culture (e.g., see Taiji), a religious milieu for more diverse than that of the Roman Empire and its barbarian descendants. Yoga and related mind-body disciplines are essential to the safe practice of magery. While some wizards do maintain that it is all a matter of getting the words and the physical parts of a spell right, the balance of opinion has shifted from that recipe book view of magery. Instead, most of the current schools of thought about magery as a practical art see it as requiring a particular state of consciousness.
Consciousness moves on many levels of being. That is one of the fundamental theories of magery. It is a theory, in the scientific sense of the word. That is, an observed structure of the cosmos that has been corroborated by a sufficient number of experts to be universally accepted. Theories in magery, as in chemistry or physics, do get tweaked and evolve over time. Sometimes they are completely overthrown by other theories with more explanatory power. On the whole, however, to the degree that one can talk about agreement among mages, the idea of planes of existence or dimensions of reality in which the human consciousness can move, may be taken as a starting point.
The term “consciousness” needs to be defined carefully. In magical philosophy, it refers to the part of the human mind or spirit that observes the world and strives to make sense out of it. It is the “me” I refer to when I am awake. When one is asleep, something else happens and dreaming is the most common “altered state of consciousness” virtually everyone experiences. The psychoanalytic term “Ego” (which is the Latin word for “I” — the first person pronoun) is the “I” that is awake — what we normally call “conscious.” C.G. Jung, the eminent psychologist distinguished the Ego from other parts of the psyche. The Ego is the complex of self-images around which our senses and our sense of self in society is organized. It also is the part of the psyche that accesses memories and indulges in daydreams and fantasies.
The unconscious mind is a much larger matter. It stores all of our memories, whether we can remember them consciously or not, and it stores memories of our fantasies and fears, hopes and aspirations. Jung also asserted that one’s personal unconscious opens into a larger realm of collective unconscious that includes all sorts of cultural archetypes. This theory of the psyche has been very influential in magical circles and has provided a model to explain the experiences of other worlds and hidden peoples such as those reported in folk lore. Which is not to say that when a mage speaks with elves or undines, she is talking to herself or with figments of the imagination. From the standpoint of magical philosophy, our “imaginary friends” as children are not simply make-belief. The imagination, that faculty of the mind so little understood, is not simply a part of the mind that likes to fantasize and make things up. It is a doorway into the many worlds of possibilities that exist on the several planes of being.
The upshot of this theory of reality is that the human mind and body must be thought of as a whole. The body is not our whole existence, nor is the mind. Rather they are two parts of one’s whole being that are inextricably interconnected. Almost anyone today will agree that the mind influences the health of the body and vice versa. The holistic model has caught on in medicine and healing fields. However, there are different schools of thought regarding what exactly the “mind” is. The dominant academic model of our intellectual culture today is materialism, a model which insists that everything can be reduced to material phenomena. Now, material phenomena does include energy and the mysterious forces of nature. Invisible forces are today accepted without question among physicists, but the dominant materialist paradigm does not admit calling invisible forces “spiritual.”
The spirit (from Latin spiritus “breath”) was a word so monopolized by the Christian churches in the West that when Europeans developed material sciences they just got rid of the term altogether. Spirits and souls were relegated to the fictional world of religious belief systems and could no longer be discussed seriously by academics. Empirical knowledge that could be gathered through physical experiments using known atomic elements, and which could be reproduced by other scientists became the basis of truth in the West. The result was that all experimentation with the spirit was put on a shelf. Or, rather, it continued to be carried on by people outside of the halls of Academe.
As famous an icon of modern empirical science as Isaac Newton had to keep his alchemical work a secret. Had it come out, he would have been ostracized from the Royal Society and probably lost his professorial chair, as Cambridge University was still, in that time, strict about the religious beliefs of its professors. A century after Newton, if a philosopher wished to study magic he had to keep it secret and hidden from not only the church authorities but from the proponents of the new material empiricism. This is the historical background to the split between spirit and body in Western culture. In fact, it goes back even farther, because the early Church Fathers developed the idea that body was bad and spirit was good. They considered that the survival of the spirit or soul after the death of the body was the higher and more important plane of being and gross material bodies just got in the way of spiritual attainment.
That idea was, to my way of thinking, a mistake. It is true, certainly, that the body and its appetites and senses distract one from developing the higher faculties of the mind and spirit. However, the solution is not to become an ascetic and denigrate the body. The solution is to do as the yogis have for centuries — practice bodily disciplines that yoke together body and spirit. The word “yoga” comes from the same root as our word “yoke.” The body and its urges and appetites are a part of our existence and we do not have to escape from the body to enter into the higher planes of existence. This is the nub of this lesson, that practicing physical disciplines that cultivate the connection between one’s material being and one’s mental and spiritual being is the foundation of magery.
So, if you start any course of magical study, you will likely encounter exercises in breathing and meditation. The Ego, that center of waking consciousness, is constantly inundated by chatter coming from the unconscious mind. That part of our soul beneath the threshold of intentional control by the Ego must be brought under control. The chattering “monkey mind” must be silenced and taught to serve one’s higher Self. Jung used the term “Self” to refer to the center of the whole psyche. The Ego complex is the center of the conscious part of the psyche. The Self complex lies at the center of both the conscious and unconscious parts of the psyche. This Self is thought of among mages as being in fact a transcendent “I” that exists through many “lives” and bodies. This is another idea we get from India — the theory of the reincarnation of the Self into different bodies. Some writers have found evidence for a similar belief in the writings of the ancient Bards of the Celtic-speaking peoples.
Many mages today embrace the idea of reincarnation, so-called “past lives,” and karma, the spiritual law that what we do unto others will come back to us for good or ill in our next incarnation. From a philosophical standpoint, this means that the purpose of life is to learn to be a good person — to follow the Golden Rule and be a blessing to others. The selflessness that is often spoken of in relation to Eastern philosophy is not a loss of self-identity, but it is a transcending of the Ego’s tendency to defend its own existence by acting selfishly, even cruelly toward others. The mind-body disciplines of Hindu yogis and of druids both aim to raise awareness of the layers of being within one’s psyche. And learning to breathe deeply and quiet the chatter of your mind is first and foremost. Without that first step, you can never become truly aware that you have a higher Self and that it is connected to all things, and through that connection to all other beings. It is this realization — the true internalization of knowing this to be so — that permits one to act selflessly and see that every other person is just as holy as oneself. That realization is sometimes rather dramatically called the annihilation of the Ego. You can never entirely get rid of your Ego. It is an important part of the mind — important for survival in material existence. But you can put your Ego in its place by self-realization, seeing yourself as a multi-dimensional being connected to all things, including the Divine.
Deportment is an old-fashioned term for learning how to hold one’s body and move gracefully. Young people were taught how to deport themselves in polite society and behave well. From the magical point of view, deportment is more than this. It is a matter of controling one’s body, cultivating grace, calm, and deliberate action. Practicing this physical art does not aim to strengthen the muscles or burn fat. It aims to link the conscious mind to the unconscious mind, and so to the body. For a great deal of what is contained in one’s unconscious mind comes from the body. Some thinkers have suggested that every cell, even our DNA contains messages that can percolate to the brain and so become conscious thoughts. That our organs and cells communicate in some way with each other and determine our health seems unquestionable. Whether one can tap into that cellular memory and those lines of communication remains to be seen, but it is entirely consistent with the theories of magical philosophy.
So, if you want to be a wizard, start by learning yoga or ta’i chi. Not “martial arts” but the spiritual side of those disciplines. Not for physical fitness, but for the understanding of how to move your spiritual energies in your body and then in your surroundings. Moving chi, is what the Taoist sages call it — chi gong. The yogis call this substance prana. Mages in the West have had to adopt those terms into English to express the idea. The druids sometimes use an old Welsh word, nwyfre (which is pronounced something like NOO-vrah). In the Latin cultural and linguistic tradition (to which English is an heir) the word “spirit” used to carry this same meaning. Spirit was a substance flowing through all things. Like Chi with its complementary yin and yang aspects, spirit informed everything.
Today, if we can overcome the religious connotations of “spirit” it is a suitable word. But because of the ascendency of material sciences over our culture as the arbiter of truth, mages today in the West tend to adapt terms from physics to service. Franz Bardon, the 20th century Czech mage, described the spiritual fluid as Aether, and as comprised of an electrical and a magnetic fluid. The idea is exactly the same as yin and yang (yin being the magnetic fluid and yang being the electrical), only employing terms from Western science. I do not personally think that the practice is wise because it is too easy for the uninitiated to think that one is talking about electro-magnetism as the material sciences define those forces.
In a sense, electricity and magnetism are aspects of the occult forces described by alchemists, but they are only part of the picture — only the material effects are studied by Western science. The spiritual effects of these two fluids, which transmute one into the other, runs much more deeply in the psyche. In any case, one cannot begin to understand and really know that things of the spirit are true and real, until one experiences one’s own prana and one’s own ability to manipulate, move, and use prana for healing and for physical grace. Only when this lesson in deportment is learned can one begin to move prana consciously outside of one’s material body and into the higher planes of existence.
It is within those higher planes, those other dimensions of being, that magic is done. The art of magery creates something new, like all arts, but it does so on a level of deep causality. Circumstances and phenomena are driven by spiritual forces and intelligences. You, as an aspiring mage are a spiritual intelligence and can create new circumstances and phenomena because you are. It is no coincidence that with the rise of Spiritualism and modern magical groups another movement stepped onto the cultural stage. That was the physical culture movement. We are children of that movement, for it was the beginning of the health craze, vegetarianism, health foods, and exercise regimens. The physical culture advocates of the early 20th century understood the link between a sound mind and a sound body. So, by all means engage in physical games and activities, but do not do so simply to be stronger or more attractive to the opposite sex. Do so mindfully, cultivating awareness of your body as you cultivate awareness of your thoughts and feelings. Remember it this way: In the magical alphabet the first five letters form a group:
A is for Awareness
B is for Body
C is for Consciousness
D is for Deportment
E is for Exercises (mind-body exercises)
Recommended Reading on Deportment:
Jess Stearn. Yoga, Youth, and Reincarnation.
Franz Bardon. Initiation into Hermetics.
NEXT TIME: The letter F is for Feelings: Getting a Grip on Your Unconscious.